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Author Topic: Mechanical Gender Differences  (Read 16305 times)
Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #15 on: May 07, 2004, 01:40:30 AM »

Ok, lots of points to respond to, and I'm afraid I'll miss some or some will be posted while I'm posting this. ho hum.

John: Thanks for the insight into your game. It has brought up something which I will come back to with reference to the later posts.

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To me, the bigger issue than quibbling over 1% vs 5% is the implication that the observed gender differences in populations indicates only inherent genetic tendencies. This is the age-old problem of nature vs nurture -- expressed in modern-day gender arguments as essentialism vs constructionism. There's no right answer, but I think there are problems with making one or the other inherent in your game mechanics -- because it's a sticky issue that has no clear real-world answer.

Thanks for reminding me that a difference of 1 or 2 on a stat is actually a difference of 5% or 10% on a roll (ignoring if there are any other modifiers). This is important, because this is typically the sort of variance you find... the same sort that Claire would call "very very very small".

Regarding "nature vs nurture", in my first psych lecture 4 years ago i remember clearly my lecturer stating vehemently that that debate is dead, because all respectable evidence finds that both are equally important. However, as I will come back to later, you really can't think that there are problems in using one or the other, as in your Vinland campaign you used only one: nurture (constructionism). That you encountered no controversy is what I will come back to.

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I think you're faced with a problem here. You're trying to answer the question of why gendered social roles existed -- but you're doing it only through the mechanic of small attribute modifiers. I think you'll find the answer that those attribute modifiers don't make any significant difference.

But surely, were they to make "no significant difference", they would not encoutner such opposition! But your point is perfectly valid, unlike your rules for Vinland, there is absolutely nothing preventing any female from being a warrior, and yet, MY mechanics are Bad.

Contracycle:
Thank you for bringing up nutrition so clearly. Indeed, I will incorporate this factor into my Social Classes to account for this fact. Now there are 2 good things that I've picked up from this topic to help me make my game better. Sweet.

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Which is totally irrelevant. The fact that one aspect of psychological behaviour has a high variance of appearance does in any way imply that other - in this case physical - differences has anything like the same degree of variability.

I think you've missed my point. My point was that among the billions of individual specific differences that may exist between genders, the variance between males and females may vary greatly, but that when collapsed and homogenised, these differences are *almost* drowned out. Which makes perfect sense when you think about it. For example, if you were to measure how many serial killers used knives compared to guns, you'd probably find some large differences, but if you collapsed guns and knives into weapons, you'd find practically nothing.

I never implied that a jump to physical was plausible, but it doesn't take a scientist to see that males and females have physical differences beyond genitalia. The strongest woman in the world is no match for the strongest man, hence the olympic events are split into genders.

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But they are not true differences if you have exaggerated their scale by one or more orders of magntiude. Now they are aesthetic decisions.

As John so kindly brought up, 5% is not more than one or more orders of magnitude. it is approximately the same.

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Well, part of the criticism is that much of that media is itself sexist, so imitating it is hardly a step forward. At beast its non-challenging conformity with a conventional paradigm, at worst its active misogyny.

Actually, I based my gender modifiers off the same foundation I based the attributes themselves: my experience in studying psychology. But as John mentioned, seperating something like female beauty from being culturally or genetically based is impossible. Neither culture nor genetics exist without the other.

Claire,
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I'm afraid I didn't find it especially enthralling. I mean, it just didn't enlighten me very much. But population trait differences is not my thing.

I was being sarcastic :)

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I'm not at all interested in playing a game that involves some attribute about my character's tendency to fantasize about being raped. That's partly just me, because I like my system simple and small, but I don't think it's simply that tencency in my roleplaying preference.

Neither would I be, nor anyone I know. I was merely making a point concerning scale of differences. Which I think I made.

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Mechanics is one way of doing this. But you have made the game about gender differences by doing this.

Have I? How is it that a single table with a list of modifiers overrides the pages and pages and continual reference to species, combat, social interaction, and the pursuit of advancement through the avenues the world provides in terms of organisations? Why is it not one of these other things? Why not all of them? Is gender mutually exclusive of everything else?

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I'd be playing in freaky bizzaro world and it would only serve to bring home to me that the world is not really like that, that I'm damn glad that it isn't, and why am I doing this again?

If acknowledging gender differences is "freaky bizzaro", then I'd guess you'd be a modern feminist, right? If so, then the reason you would never play my game is not because it's a freaky bizzaro world, but because it either a) defies your ideal notion of reality or b)see the bottom of this post for discussion of types of rules.

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It's not an approach I'd take myself. And you asked for personal opinions.

Yes I did, thank you for yours, they are appreciated. It's nice to get as many different views expressed as possible.

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To be honest, I'd think twice or thrice about playing in a game that used a mechanic to exaggerate gender differences and I both happily play in games where the social and economic opportunities for women are limited, and I've been extremely lucky in the people I play with and their general respect for the fellow human beings.

Extremely lucky? I guess then that I too, am extremely lucky for not having associated with anyone who does not respect their fellow humans.
This comment segues extremely nicely into what I mentioned earlier that I would come back to.


i have noticed that there is a clear distinction that should be made and acknowledged, which I slap myself on the forehead for not bringing up earlier. That is between what John termed essentialism and constructionism. Essentialism refers, in this case, to mechanics which internally state why something should be so, and constructionism refers to mechanics which are externally imposed and declare that saomething is so. I'm going to refer to essentialism as lower-order functions and constructionism as higher-order.

I see higher-order mechanics as the ones like John mentioned. They are superficial, in that they do not provide a reason, and thus, without a reason for their existence, they can be seen as something which can be removed should you so choose. Like a glass roof over your head.

On the other hand, lower-order mechanics are a reason, and thus inherently resist being removed. Like a ball-and-chain shackled to your foot.

In my studies of philosophy and psychology, I have found that people in general absolutely loath any notion that morals, standards, or societal norms should be based on any other foundation than superficial cultural rules, like the sort that can be abandoned at will. To suggest that there is a "real" reason for morals, standards, or societal norms is to deny them the power to break free. Now, importantly, this attitude does not correlate with actually "breakign free" of these things, only the percieved ability to do so at will. In other words, so long as you CAN leave your room, you are happy even if you never choose to do so. But take away that choice, and you'll have a massive tanty.

Apparently, by using lower-order mechanics which are stating that there is a reason for society dividing up gender roles I am removing percieved freedom, EVEN THOUGH THE FREEDOM IS THERE.

However, if, as in John's example using higher-order mechnics which give no reasons, only rules, then there is no problem because there is no threat to percieved freedom, EVEN THOUGH THE FREEDOM IS NON-EXISTANT.

In other words, I can include higher-order rules that state that no woman can ever be a warrior and no man can ever seduce a woman till the cows come home, but as soon as I say "Ok, you can do whatever you want, but you are just naturally not suited for some things" I get myself into all sorts of trouble.

I'm sorry, but I think this is fucking stupid.


If I am wrong, feel free to correct me, so long as your correction is in-line with the evidence available, and not just a dismissal because of dislike.

-Ben
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #16 on: May 07, 2004, 02:37:40 AM »

Quote from: Ravien

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I'd be playing in freaky bizzaro world and it would only serve to bring home to me that the world is not really like that, that I'm damn glad that it isn't, and why am I doing this again?

If acknowledging gender differences is "freaky bizzaro", then I'd guess you'd be a modern feminist, right? If so, then the reason you would never play my game is not because it's a freaky bizzaro world, but because it either a) defies your ideal notion of reality or b)see the bottom of this post for discussion of types of rules.


Now thats not on.  This sort of attack on Feminism is exactly the sort of thing that makes it look as if you have a covert misogynistic agenda.  Am I to take it you think women should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen?  Thats a criticism just as exagerated as the stereotype you seem to apply to feminists.

I agree with Claire that in my view of how reality IS (not should be), your emphasis is misplaced and your modifiers exaggerated, and it does not accord with how I think reality actually works.

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In other words, I can include higher-order rules that state that no woman can ever be a warrior and no man can ever seduce a woman till the cows come home, but as soon as I say "Ok, you can do whatever you want, but you are just naturally not suited for some things" I get myself into all sorts of trouble.

I'm sorry, but I think this is fucking stupid.


The difference is this - with what you term the higher order rule, you are not attempting to procure our consent.  We can look at this rule and say "thats fucking stupid - what about the female Viking warriors" or whatever anecdote we have handy.  But when you encode it as an effect naturally arising from cause, you are asking us to agree with your analysis of what Is and how things that are interact.  If we don't agree with your analysis of either, then we will reject the proposed system.  But in many ways higher order rules are easier and less contentious to reject because there has been no attempt to procure buy-in.  They can be used for all sorts of effects because they are not predicated on an alleged actual analysis of actual reality.  I could make a 3 musketeers game that barred female characters and just say "because its genre emulation" and that can be less provocoative than saying "because women are not strong enough to be combatants".  The kind of thing to which I am asking my audience grant consent to is very different in those cases.
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Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #17 on: May 07, 2004, 03:34:42 AM »

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Now thats not on. This sort of attack on Feminism is exactly the sort of thing that makes it look as if you have a covert misogynistic agenda. Am I to take it you think women should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen? Thats a criticism just as exagerated as the stereotype you seem to apply to feminists.

Attack? I made an observation that Claire would not like my game because it is incongruent with her ideal reality. Her ideal reality is incongruent with mine, does that mean that she is attacking me? Not at all. I feel my observation was valid, and the conclusion, that she would not play my game because it does not correlate with her ideals, is entirely valid also. I apologise if there was some hidden value judgement being made in there.... I can't see one.

Bringing up mysoogyny is kind of a straw man though, unless Not Agreeing with Modern Feminism = Hating Women. By modern feminism, I am referring to the belief that devoid of culture, males and females would be identical. In other words, any differences are higher-order functions and thus negotiable. It's a very pervasive belief, but in my view, one that is simply not supported by the evidence. However, such a topic is neither meant for the forge or what this thread is about.

That said, within the bounds of mechanics in games, how would you define reality? Or are current trends of disregarding all historical fact and psychological evidence concerning gender entirely representative of how you think reality actually works?

Which brings us back to the main topic of this thread: "Is it possible to incorporate gender-based mechanics into games without starting a veritable forest fire?" By mechanics I am referring to system mechanics, which are likely to be lower-order, as opposed to setting rules, which are likely to be higher-order. (BTW, if anyone dislikes my terminology, feel free to come up with more appropriate words). If the answer is no, as the trend currently suggests, then that will logically lead to a discussion about why such things are simply "Not Done", which would almost certianly concern societal attitudes as a whole, but right now, my focus is on games.


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They can be used for all sorts of effects because they are not predicated on an alleged actual analysis of actual reality.

Neither is magic, what's your point?

When I read that, it strikes me that for some reason (actually I know the reason) or other, you can tell people that their HUMAN characters can jump off cliffs with nary a scratch, you can tell them that they can punch holes through concrete walls, you can tell them they can catch arrows, cast fireballs from their hands, use psychic powers to crush the minds of enemies, cut dragons in half, and make love to a difference species and procure offspring, and besides all of this, they will nod and accept that their character is pretty amazing. But tell them that their fantasy female lizard-like alien isn't as strong as the males of her kind despite the fact that she is better at social interaction, and all of a sudden you are infringing on the players view of reality. WHEN THE FUCK DID THIS BECOME ABOUT REALITY??? Since when is any game designed to make ascertions about the players? Since when does +1 Fluid on my character sheet mean that REAL humans in REAL life have +1 Intelligence any more than "Can cast balls of molten lead" means that REAL humans can do this?

What is so special about gender, that makes it so unique among all the other things that anyone could ever comment on, so much so that it alone reaches beyond the realms of the game to include the player's reality?



Remember when I said gender was pervasive and more salient than anything else, so why is it so ignored? Nothing illustrates this better than the fact I just set out above. It is SO salient, that any mention of it regardless of context crosses all bounds that could exist. The same could easily be said of TV.

So let me reiterate: Why is gender so ignored? Is it like the elephant that's sitting in the living room? Everyone sees it, but nobody says a thing.

Please, someone, help me out here.

-Ben
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #18 on: May 07, 2004, 04:34:57 AM »

Quote from: Ravien

Attack? I made an observation that Claire would not like my game because it is incongruent with her ideal reality. Her ideal reality is incongruent with mine, does that mean that she is attacking me? Not at all. I feel my observation was valid, and the conclusion, that she would not play my game because it does not correlate with her ideals, is entirely valid also. I apologise if there was some hidden value judgement being made in there.... I can't see one.


Buit its not her ideals she referred to - it is her experience of reality.  As Chris suggested, perhaps it is YOUR view that is an ideal that does not accord with reality as it actually exists.  For you to state categorically that anothers view is an ideal, as opposed your own pragmatic analysis, is to undermine the credibility of the claim.

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By modern feminism, I am referring to the belief that devoid of culture, males and females would be identical.


Can you point to where this claim is made?  Because I have read several feminist authors who would agree to no such thing at all.  This does not in any way legitimise misogynistic stereotypes of women.

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That said, within the bounds of mechanics in games, how would you define reality? Or are current trends of disregarding all historical fact and psychological evidence concerning gender entirely representative of how you think reality actually works?


The assertion that feminist writers have "disregarded reality" displays a disregard for reality.  I say you are creating a straw version of feminist argument to destroy.  Yes, my view of how reality actually works accords much more closely with feminist analysis than with its counterpoint - I think that gender differences have been substantially exagerated, and I would not be keen to see games duplicate that error.

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They can be used for all sorts of effects because they are not predicated on an alleged actual analysis of actual reality.

Neither is magic, what's your point?


That like magic, your higher order ruling exists only as a rule,a nd everyone can take it or leave it without seeing it as even an attempted remark on reality.  It can be seen as purely fictitious or a 'prop'.

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 WHEN THE FUCK DID THIS BECOME ABOUT REALITY???


As soon as you claimed you were trying to represent the real differences, as you see them.

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Since when is any game designed to make ascertions about the players? Since when does +1 Fluid on my character sheet mean that REAL humans in REAL life have +1 Intelligence any more than "Can cast balls of molten lead" means that REAL humans can do this?


Sure.  And you could also say "in my wholly fictitious world, females are less strong than males by a much greater degree than actual gender dimorphism in humans", that may well be fine. but when you allege this is a correct view of reality, then you are making a statement that may jar with your audiences view of reality.

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What is so special about gender, that makes it so unique among all the other things that anyone could ever comment on, so much so that it alone reaches beyond the realms of the game to include the player's reality?


Six thousand years of systematic oppression, thats what.

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So let me reiterate: Why is gender so ignored? Is it like the elephant that's sitting in the living room? Everyone sees it, but nobody says a thing.


Disagreeing about whether a difference is worthy of a game mechanical modifier is not "ignoring gender".  Making a point of making a particular thing worthy of a modifier when other things - like nutrition - have as great or greater an impact, and are yet ignored, may well suggest that the author has a particular axe to grind.

If you make it your personal business to have a system that displays gender dimorphism, and you further exagerate that degree of dimorphism - as it seems to me - then it seems that it is you, not I, with a special and particular issue with gender.
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
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xiombarg
Member

Posts: 1183


WWW
« Reply #19 on: May 07, 2004, 05:21:16 AM »

Ben, I've been watching this thread, and given your comments so far, particularly those about "feminism"* but not limited to those comments, not to mention the way you assume any female who disagrees with you must be a "feminist", it seems that you do have an axe to grind regarding male/female differences. After all, you did start this thread in the first place.

You claim that you've only instuted these differences to explain your in-game reality (i.e. that armies are mostly made of men), and I understand that, but the thing people are really asking you with their "why bother" questions, which you don't seem to be getting, is this: Why do you feel the need to explain that particular aspect of the game's "reality"? Why do you have to explain why armies are made of men, reather than letting the GM and players come up with a plausible reason that they can accept, anything from "cultural mores" to "men are more aggressive"? Why is it so important to you that the answer is "men are stronger"?

Before you get more defensive and start swearing at me as well, understand that this is where the confusion you're seeing is coming from, and why people don't "just get" what you seem to think is so obvious. We're not attacking you, we're confused that you won't own up to your agenda, when, from the outside, it looks like you have one.

That said, part of the reason you're so frustrated might be you're not even conciously aware of your agenda. If that's the case, this is your chance to reflect on what you're really doing by having these game-mechanical gender differences in your game, and consider what your agenda is. I know you think your agenda is merely explaining in-game reality, but there is a reason that particular in-game reality appeals to you rather than an in-game reality where the genders are equal, just as a fantasy game appeals to you more than a sci-fi game. What is that appeal?



* I put "feminism" and "feminist" in quotes because your concept of feminism is a caricature of actual feminist thought. I mean no offense by this, I'm just saying I don't think of feminism the same way you do.
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clehrich
Member

Posts: 1557


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« Reply #20 on: May 07, 2004, 05:53:54 AM »

Quote from: Silmenume
In a world and culture where we are supposed to celebrate diversity (differences), why is the quantification of said differences inherently problementical?

And because there are differences why is that necessarily a negative issue, and one that is drawing attention itself?

If we are supposed to be celebrating diversity would this not present an opportunity to do so?

Differences and the quantification of them mean nothing - that is unless human beings then decides to make other sorts of judgements based upon those inherently neutral differences.
As I said at the outset of my post, I don't have a problem with mechanically instituting divisions of whatever sort.  But you can't model everything -- so why this division?

This is in some ways parallel to one of Mike's Standard Rants, the one about combat systems.  If you write a detailed combat system, you're saying that combat is important to your game.  That's fine, but you need to think about whether combat should be important to your game.  Similarly, if you introduce mechanics to emphasize (however slightly) sexual dimorphism, you're saying that this dimorphism is important to the game.  Why is it important?  And I don't think that Ben has adequately answered this question.

Quote from: Ravien
As a side note of sorts, your example of a "racist" mechanic was good. But here's an exercise: Why would such a mechanic be a bad thing? This question is perhaps made especially harder if the game were actually attempting to depict the reality of that historical period. Would it still be as bad if blacks were the base rate and whites had +2 to intelligence and -2 to strength? What about if blacks had +2 to intelligence and -2 to strength? Are these options equalling unappealing? See, what I would take home from this is that there is nothing at all inherently wrong with such a mechanic, nor is it racist. Instead, I think any problem with such a division is not what that division is, but the fact that there is a division, implying that deep down, no-one wants to be different or "singled-out" from whatever is defined as "the norm", unless it is for praise or something positive. If in such a game blacks were "the norm", whites would not wish to be different from them regardless of "balance". Of course, such an observation is made hilarious by the explicit desire for everyone to be "an individual".
You mistake my point, Ben.  I'm not saying that such a "racist" mechanic is a bad thing at all.  And yes, of course you could reverse it if you liked.  But either way, the question would be: why focus on this?

What doesn't seem to be coming through here is that you cannot model everything.  There is always emphasis.  A game's modeling mechanics always stress certain things and downplay others.  John Kim has brought up the question of social vs. genetic bases for physical characteristics.  So let's suppose you made your mechanics for character generation into a skill-based life-path system, and started with no explicit dimorphism in the traits or attributes.  Then you might construct things such that warriors gain strength, and most women's life-paths tend to weaken them physically.  The end-result, in terms of strength, could be constructed such that it's identical.  But a life-path system would emphasize the social, constructed nature of dimorphism, rather than a natural, intrinsic one.

Now neither system is good or bad as such.  But each emphasizes different things, says different things about sex and gender.  So why have you chosen to model this as you have?

You mention the qualities of beauty being greater for women than men.  I could mention some societies in this world where quite the opposite is believed; the various Enga societies of New Guinea, for example, generally seem to consider women intrinsically less attractive than men.  There's nothing "natural" about it; it's cultural.  Similarly, I suspect that if you asked a lot of gay men, they would tell you that they find men more attractive.  So why have you chosen to make these qualities intrinsic?

I'm not telling you that there is something wrong with your system.  What I'm saying is that your system creates certain effects, says particular things about sex.  And those things do not necessarily have to be said; a great system can be designed without them, with no loss.  The fact that your system opts to include strong sexual dimorphism, and makes it inherent, emphasizes and focuses attention on this issue.

So the question is why you want to focus attention on that issue, and why you want to do so in this way.  Until I understand what effect you are trying to get, in terms of gameplay, there is no way for me to assess whether your mechanics are effective.

Suppose this were a Narrativist game, and the Premise something about sex divisions.  Okay, so what is that Premise?  Suppose again that what you want is a kind of epic fantasy Sim/Gam sort of game.  Okay, so why is sex particularly important to that goal?  I mean, it may well be so, but I have yet to hear you explain that.
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Chris Lehrich
Walt Freitag
Member

Posts: 1039


« Reply #21 on: May 07, 2004, 05:58:30 AM »

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What is so special about gender, that makes it so unique among all the other things that anyone could ever comment on, so much so that it alone reaches beyond the realms of the game to include the player's reality?


Very simple. Most players have a strong preference for playing characters of their own gender. (Why they have such preference, or whether they should have such preference, is irrelevant to the point at hand.)

Because of this, any curtailment of players' choices based on character gender is seen (to some degree correctly) as a de facto curtailment of players' choices based on the player's gender.

All the rest of this debate comes out of that. You'll notice that rules about how a character's age affects the character's stats do not inspire vehement debates about the appropriateness, statistical validity, in-game rationale, designers' political motives, or psychological basis of such rules. Players don't generally care very much about the ages of the characters they play, relative to their own ages. If they did, then arguments about character age effects rules would also generate comparisons to institutionalized black slavery and invocations of thousands of years of oppression.

So, I suggest ignoring the smoke and addressing the real issue. Do you believe your suggested rules curtail players' options based on the players' gender, given the widespread preference for playing characters of the same gender as the player? If not, why not? If so, why is that OK?

- Walt
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Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #22 on: May 07, 2004, 06:25:12 AM »

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For you to state categorically that anothers view is an ideal, as opposed your own pragmatic analysis, is to undermine the credibility of the claim.

Yes, but I didn't suggest that my view was pragmatic, I said:
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Her ideal reality is incongruent with mine...

Hence "mine", being void of reference, must instead reference the nearest logical point, that being, within this context, ideal reality.

Regarding the difference between "ideal" and "experience", they can arguably be used interchangeabley within certain contexts. One meaning of ideal is simply "standard", whilst perhaps you are interpreting it as "standards of perfection". A person's standards (ideals) are invariably gained through experience, as surely there is no other way to learn anything.

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Can you point to where this claim is made? Because I have read several feminist authors who would agree to no such thing at all. This does not in any way legitimise misogynistic stereotypes of women.

Two points here: 1. Yes, many feminist authors do not hold such a view, indeed, original feminism did not. Unfortunately I cannot point you to where this claim is made, as I do not have a collection of feminist references. But the thing is, whilst several authors may make no such claim, many do. Feminism is remarkably heterogenous, hence my constant qualification of feminism with "modern". If you want to see where people actually hold what I refer to as modern feministic views, you need look no further than this thread (btw, claims to the effect of "yes we are different, but the differences are negligible" are, in my view, no different to "we are the same", if not for content, for ideal underlying meaning).

2. Why is it that Hating Women is always brought up against anyone who expresses disbelief in some form or other of feminism? Most especially, what possible justification exists within this thread for the inclusion of such a term? I refuse to dignify the misusage of this term by defending myself against it's misuse in reference to me.

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As soon as you claimed you were trying to represent the real differences, as you see them.

I think you misinterpreted my meaning, but in truth, the meaning was easy to miss. I didn't mean "what does a game have to do with reality", for surely there must exist a correlate in order for players to relate to and enjoy exploration. I meant "why is it that for this one issue, that the game is taken as a comment and judgement of reality, as opposed to simply a possible interpretative reflection of it (as all other aspects are afforded)?" I know that I've seen combat systems where I look at it and say "shit, that's completely nothing like what I imagine when I imagine attacking somebody", but I still play it, or maybe I don't. But I certainly don't get all steamed up thinking "how dare the creator of this game assume that combat should work this way! what right or knowledge do they have to challenge my beliefs as a gamer?" Big difference there... at least, I see one...

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Sure. And you could also say "in my wholly fictitious world, females are less strong than males by a much greater degree than actual gender dimorphism in humans", that may well be fine. but when you allege this is a correct view of reality, then you are making a statement that may jar with your audiences view of reality.

See above statement.

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Six thousand years of systematic oppression, thats what.

Fuck off.

I apologise if that statement caused offence, but it was not directed at you, only at your statement. I refuse to accept that any human being has lived for 6000 years, nor has somehow accumulated 6000 years worth of psychological oppression. The number of years of oppression could be fifty billlion or thirty, and the result would be the same for a thirty year old. But looking at the world today.... nope, I see nothing of this oppression which has so scarred the minds of women around the world. In fact, they seem to be doing pretty fucking well.

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Disagreeing about whether a difference is worthy of a game mechanical modifier is not "ignoring gender". Making a point of making a particular thing worthy of a modifier when other things - like nutrition - have as great or greater an impact, and are yet ignored, may well suggest that the author has a particular axe to grind.

If you make it your personal business to have a system that displays gender dimorphism, and you further exagerate that degree of dimorphism - as it seems to me - then it seems that it is you, not I, with a special and particular issue with gender.

If you don't acknowledge the existence of the elephant, of course you have no problem with the fact that it's sitting right there next to you. Also, I already mentioned that nutrition will be implemented via social class.

But this whole "there is no difference" thing is really beginning to annoy me. It seems that the only reason that gender mechanics are such a faus pas is because either people don't believe that gender exists beyond genitalia, or because they don't want to believe it exists, both of which have the same result: what I call modern feminism. But you know what? If gender is only defined by genitalia, then perhaps some people could profer explanations for the following things, all of which are facts I have learned through my degree or blatant observations of my world which no sane person could dismiss:

Olympic potential. All events are split into gender. Males consistently run faster and for longer than females. Males can become significantly stronger than females. They can swim faster and for longer. None of these things can demonstrably be caused by any factor other than genetics, as all athletes can reasonably be assumed to have comparable access to nutritious food and hours of training. To imply culture in this difference is to suggest that playing with barbies makes Jane a slower runner.

Women on average consistently score an average of 1-2 I.Q. points higher than average males. This difference exists when all other potentially influential factors such as SES (socio-economic standards), culture, and region are accounted for. However, this "small" (1%) difference is belied by the fact that women typically score around 5% better than males in verbal processing tasks, and males score around 5% better than women in spatial reasoning tasks. 5% is not "small". In fact, as noted earilier, it is 1 in 20.

To make the intelligence picture more interesting, it is a largely unknown fact that male genius' outnumber females 13:1. That's right, thirteen to one. "Genius" for this case means having an I.Q. higher than 150. This fact is actually entirely what one would expect given the genetics involved, but I don't have time to go into that right now.

Far more males are likely to suffer from schizophrenia than females (~9% compared to ~2%). Again, this is not a trivial difference. (I apologise if my figures are not precise, it's been six months since I did abnormal psych)

Far more females are likely to suffer from anorexia than males (~3% compared to ~0.1%). Again, I apologise if figures are not precise.

~30% of females report that their emotional experiences are often very strong and that they find them hard to identify (both cause and actual emotion) compared to ~10% of males. ~30% of males report that their emotional experiences are very weak and that they find them hard to identify, compared to ~10% of females. Males and females were *roughly* equal (within ~10% of each other) in reporting that emotions were strong and easy to identify, or weak and easy to identify. Again, it is very hard to call such differences "small".

Shit, I just realised that I could go on for ages, but I won't. If anyone is interested in verifying any of this feel free to pm me and I'll dig up the papers and send you the pdfs of the articles if I can. If the above is "the author having an axe to grind", then this author's brother fucked a chimp and gave him a monkey nephew.


But somewhere along the line this thread got derailed into being an attack on my justifications for including gender mechanics. Whilst I am perfectly happy to debate this, I was hoping to see how many other people have considered this, and why they have chosen to use/not use such mechanics. John and Sheryas both offered excellent examples from their own games, which provoked me to distinguish between higher- and lower-order mechanics. Both of which I am happy to discuss in this thread.

-Ben
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simon_hibbs
Member

Posts: 678


« Reply #23 on: May 07, 2004, 06:29:49 AM »

This debate is going all over the place, But I would like to chiop in therefore I'll confine myself to addressign the orriginal post and it's questions.

Ravien, first of all I think I should point out that your orriginal post is very loaded. First of al you reserve the right to call people irrational if they don't agree with you (they have to give 'reasons'). Soon after you imply that people who think men and women should be modeled the same are zealots (any other approach is 'blasphemous'). These are phrased very carefuly, but the inference is clear. It's clear from the beginning that you're setting yourself up for a pretty nasty debate, otherwise why preface your post with such loaded language? I think it's reasonable to comment on this, because it makes up a significant portion of the word count of your post.

As to the main part of the post, I find it a little confusing. I'm not realy clear why you choose to have gender modifiers. In one place you talk about this simply modeling the (fantasy) game world. In other places you seem to at least strongly imply that you think these modifiers also model differences in our world.

You make one point - that you want the way things are in the game world to lead logicaly on from character generation. I think this is a lost cause because surely game world conditions are going to have a big effect on how people develop in their lives before the point of character generation. There's a cause-effect loop here, not just a linear progression, so I think this argument is untennable.

Another assumption of yours is that soldiers are men only because men are stronger. There are many resons why soldiers tend to be men, one of the main ones being that it's somewhat inconvenient for an army if a significant proportion of it's combat troops regularly get pregnant. IMHO this massive logistical problem for ancient armies is so great that it dwarfs any notional attribute differences between men and women. The fact that in most human societies women raise the children also ties them to the home in a way that makes military campaigning inconvenient, so there are solid biological reasons for these social differences that make arguments based on strength modifiers look a bit silly. The fact that women have a womb and breasts are somewhat more important than a cap on Strength. Yet these reasons apply only in general, but need not make any difference to individuals, or even minority groups.

Arguments about whether men or women are inherently more attractive are, to my mind, beside the point. Beauty in both men and women has always been celebrated. Should we argue whether Venus had a higher Charisma stat than Adonis? Is the Venus Di Milo inherently more beautiful art than Michelangelo's statue of David, simply because the subject is a woman? Many animals have strong physical differences between the sexes for evolutionary reasons, but humans bond in pairs for life. For us, attracting and keeping a single partner long term is equaly important for both genders.

It sems to me that games about gender difference, or game worlds in which gender differences play a significant role can be interesting. For example we might play a game set in the Imperial Court of feudal Japan. In such a setting gender roles would play a major part, and whole character life paths and social roles would be heavily gender based. However I could write such a game without making any judgements whatever about the intrinsic differences between male and female human beings, and yet the logic of the game would not suffer one jot.

If you want the game to be about gender roles, that's fine. At least the premise is out there in the open and the game can resonably be judged on it's own terms. However it seems that this game realy isn't, so I'm left somewhat confused.

The game in question uses a points-buy system. To my mind, the main advantage of such systems is that they allow players to play the characters they want to play. By and large, people what to play extraordinary characters, or at least characters that do extraordinary things. A system that limits that using arbitrary ceilings on abilities is at least guilty of incoherent design.

Finaly, a reality check. There's recently been a TV programme in which a group (20 or so I think) of volunteer civilians is put through SAS special forces training. The volunteers were all very fit - fitness instructors, national level athletes and the like, and always included some women. If women had a significant cap on their physical abilities you'd expect that none would ever get through, yet consistently some women usualy managed to stay in through to the last 3 or 4. This even though the SAS chief instruction often copmmented that he didn't realy think women had a place as front line troops - at least a notional bias. So I'm sorry, but your arguments don't stack up, and practical tests of the theory wash out as well.


Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
quozl
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« Reply #24 on: May 07, 2004, 06:35:53 AM »

I'm going to be daring and ignore everything else posted in this thread except for the original question.

Quote from: Ravien
Unfortunately, I haven't figured out a way to make gender important beyond chargen, so once you've advanced a bit the choice of gender becomes mute....


The above quote is why you shouldn't have sexual (gender is something entirely different) differences in character creation.  If it's not important after character creation, then it's not important during chracter creation.

If you make sexual differences important in your game, then you have a reason for making them important in character creation.

Now, since this thread has gotten quite hateful, I'm not going to read any more of it, so if you'd like to discuss this further, you can either start another thread or PM me.

I hope this helps.
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--- Jonathan N.
Currently playtesting Frankenstein's Monsters
xiombarg
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« Reply #25 on: May 07, 2004, 06:38:12 AM »

Quote from: Ravien
But somewhere along the line this thread got derailed into being an attack on my justifications for including gender mechanics. Whilst I am perfectly happy to debate this, I was hoping to see how many other people have considered this, and why they have chosen to use/not use such mechanics. John and Sheryas both offered excellent examples from their own games, which provoked me to distinguish between higher- and lower-order mechanics. Both of which I am happy to discuss in this thread.

It's only an attack because you percieve it that way, Ben. Simon has a point about your loaded language... It looks like you came from Chad's thread with a chip on your shoulder.

John and Sheryas gave accounts of their motivations for their mechanics. But when people ask for your motivations, you spew statistics and avoid the issue. Walt's question is relevant as well. And Chris's comment is very, very relevant: If you have a combat sytem, you're highlighting combat. If you have a system for gender difference, you're hilighting gender. Why?

Why are you doing this? This isn't an attack on you, it's an honest question. Again, "because it's realistic" isn't an answer. There has to be a reason this particular aspect of "realism" appeals to you, just as the "unrealism" of psi powers (which I notice are in your game) appeal to you as well. What's the appeal?

If there isn't really an appeal, then Jonathan is right. Those rules are "fat" that should be cut.
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
Valamir
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Posts: 5574


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« Reply #26 on: May 07, 2004, 06:46:59 AM »

Quote
Olympic potential. All events are split into gender. Males consistently run faster and for longer than females. Males can become significantly stronger than females. They can swim faster and for longer. None of these things can demonstrably be caused by any factor other than genetics, as all athletes can reasonably be assumed to have comparable access to nutritious food and hours of training. To imply culture in this difference is to suggest that playing with barbies makes Jane a slower runner.


Ben, you've missed the point to many valid queries on this thread.  So I'm going to try a more specific line of questioning.  For the purpose of this post, lets take as a given that the above quote is actual 100% provable irrefutable genetic fact.  Men are faster, stronger, etc period.

Fine.

The question that has been asked repeatedly and ducked by you repeatedly is this:  what does any of that have to do with your game?

Your game is not the real world.  Therefor why do real world differences have any bearing on differences between males and females in your world? It makes no difference what differences do or don't exist in our world.  What matter is what difference exist in your world and WHY.

"modeling reality" is a cop out, and is factually false.  There is no reality in your world to model.  You could make women stronger and faster than men.  You could make there be no men at all and reproduction is handled purely by chemistry in laboratories.  You get to choose every element that you include in your game, and in good design every choice should be made for a reason.

You are CHOOSING to make women weaker in your world.  Why?  
To provide some lower order rationale for why armies are mostly men?

Thats not a reason, my friend.  That's an excuse.  You could just as easily have chosen to have armies be made up of both men and women.  You could just as easily have chosen to make armies be all women.  

It seems to me that what you've done is take some stereotyped gender perceptions and ported them over into your game and are now attempting to reverse engineer a justification for it.  Why?

Why is it important to the way your game plays to have armies be mostly men?

Why is it important to the way your game plays to have this distribution be based on genetic physical superiority (instead of any number of other potential reasons)?

Why is it important to you to mechanically reinforce in your game questionable real world stereo types, when given that its a fantasy world you're free to reinvent any set of stereotypes for the game you want?

Why stereotypes?  And why these?
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Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #27 on: May 07, 2004, 07:16:06 AM »

Goddamn it! That's always the way isn't it? You spend ages replying to one post, only to miss 3 more. And then someone else replies while you click "reply". AARGH!. Time to play catch up...

Quote
not to mention the way you assume any female who disagrees with you must be a "feminist

Not at all. Her opinions were what convinced me, just as contracycles do. Feminism is by no means a female-only attitude.

Quote
Why is it so important to you that the answer is "men are stronger"?

Why is it so important that the answer NOT be men are stronger? Is that simple ascertion of strength that untennable?

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Why do you feel the need to explain that particular aspect of the game's "reality"?

Because it is a big part of all human's reality, whether we acknowledge it or not, far more than combat or whatever. Also, with my game's focus on social interaction, it just, you know, fits.

As a side note, I'm beginning to notice a trend in people primariy focusing on strength. This is notable not because it is strength, but because it is a negative for females and a positive for males. No-one so far has any problem with males suffering -1 to their emotional aptitude score, nor their memory score.....

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...but there is a reason that particular in-game reality appeals to you rather than an in-game reality where the genders are equal, just as a fantasy game appeals to you more than a sci-fi game. What is that appeal?

Because my game has a broad focus. Rules for combat, social interaction, economics and trading, moving up the social ladder, differential species cultures... if I included all these things and neglected gender it would be all the more obvious for it's absence. It's appeal is the same as all the things I've included: it's another thing in a long list to explore. Also, I love challenging conventions and inspiring critical thinking of such norms. :)

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This is in some ways parallel to one of Mike's Standard Rants, the one about combat systems. If you write a detailed combat system, you're saying that combat is important to your game. That's fine, but you need to think about whether combat should be important to your game.

I think the issue is more why it shouldn't, which seems to be the focus of posts thus far. If someone says "i'm including combat in my game" people say "why" and they say "because it's a cool thing to do" other people say "cool". But when I say "I'm including gender mechanics" people say "why" and it seems no reason short of declaring myself a mysogynist and thus system dismissable is enough to suffice. Yes, I want people to explore gender, in much the same way as they explore combat. This does not mean I want to make an issue out of it any more than i want combat to be an issue. Only an avenue of exploration.

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Now neither system is good or bad as such. But each emphasizes different things, says different things about sex and gender. So why have you chosen to model this as you have?

Because some things make sense to be natural, not social. As I noted earlier, male olympians are not stronger than females because they played with tonka trucks, nor do average females have higher I.Q.'s because of barbie dolls. These differences are observable across cultures and time.

Quote
Okay, so why is sex particularly important to that goal? I mean, it may well be so, but I have yet to hear you explain that.

Ok, what if I made my game such that players could only choose to be males. Females existed, but they aren't playable. Why does the choice exist if it is purely aesthetic? Shock horror! Because some things can be included in a game without needing justification. Why not make the most of them, giving them more meaning than just what you look like and how high your voice is.

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Because of this, any curtailment of players' choices based on character gender is seen (to some degree correctly) as a de facto curtailment of players' choices based on the player's gender....

Do you believe your suggested rules curtail players' options based on the players' gender, given the widespread preference for playing characters of the same gender as the player? If not, why not? If so, why is that OK?

This is basically what I described as The Problem. But as I have attempted to explain, the game does not curtail the choices at all, it merely implies focus for avenues of pursuit. These choices can be overridden via inevitable advancement. If anything, higher-order rules are the ones which seriously curtail player choice, and yet as was found before, these are not the ones which present The Problem.

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As to the main part of the post, I find it a little confusing. I'm not realy clear why you choose to have gender modifiers. In one place you talk about this simply modeling the (fantasy) game world. In other places you seem to at least strongly imply that you think these modifiers also model differences in our world.

So does combat (model the real world). So does every other rule in the system (even magical fire "burns").

Quote
Another assumption of yours is that soldiers are men only because men are stronger. There are many resons why soldiers tend to be men, one of the main ones being that it's somewhat inconvenient for an army if a significant proportion of it's combat troops regularly get pregnant.

For sure, but try telling a girl that she can't join the army because she might get pregnant nowadays. Why should they accept that reason in a game?

Quote
However I could write such a game without making any judgements whatever about the intrinsic differences between male and female human beings, and yet the logic of the game would not suffer one jot.

See my previous post concerning higher-order functions. Essentially the reason you would have no problem is because you aren't providing an innate reason for the rules, and thus you are implying that they are arbitrary, and only there to define the game. Such things are fine, but apparently as soon as you give a reason things get icky.

Quote
If you want the game to be about gender roles, that's fine. At least the premise is out there in the open and the game can resonably be judged on it's own terms. However it seems that this game realy isn't, so I'm left somewhat confused.

It isn't about gender in the same way it isn't about combat or social interaction. it is about exploration of the setting through these avenues. I can't remember who but someone earlier gave a suggestion for a way to make gender influential during play (as opposed to confined to chargen, which is where it stands atm), and this suggestion I will take up.

Quote
The game in question uses a points-buy system. To my mind, the main advantage of such systems is that they allow players to play the characters they want to play. By and large, people what to play extraordinary characters, or at least characters that do extraordinary things. A system that limits that using arbitrary ceilings on abilities is at least guilty of incoherent design.

The arbitrary ceiling only applies at chargen, and are exaclty the only way I can make species (and gender) affect attributes logically.

Quote
If women had a significant cap on their physical abilities you'd expect that none would ever get through, yet consistently some women usualy managed to stay in through to the last 3 or 4.

Actually, no, that is pretty much exactly what one would expect. ie: that a few women will be stronger than many men, but that the best men are stronger than the best women. It's not like the best women is weaker than the weakest man or anything, no-one is suggesting that.

Also, one TV programme does not even match decades of olympic events.


Phew! This thread is HOT!

-Ben
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Halzebier
Member

Posts: 216


« Reply #28 on: May 07, 2004, 07:16:20 AM »

Just a quick note: There's middle ground between "this is irrelevant to my game" and "this is at the center of my game".

If one chooses to specifically include gender modifiers, there had better be a good reason (else why include it at all?), but it need not be the focus of the game.

Regards,

Hal
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xiombarg
Member

Posts: 1183


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« Reply #29 on: May 07, 2004, 07:28:56 AM »

Quote from: Halzebier
If one chooses to specifically include gender modifiers, there had better be a good reason (else why include it at all?), but it need not be the focus of the game.

True. But that doesn't mean the game wouldn't be better if it were more focused on what the author is interested in, and determining what the author is interested in is therefore useful.
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
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